McGuinness has no plans to become soccer coach
Two years ago Jim McGuinness was laying his plans for transforming Donegal’s football standing. By yesterday in Manhattan he had travelled a long way – literally and figuratively.
Honorary manager of this year’s Opel GAA-GPA All Stars, who play their 2011 counterparts tomorrow in New York’s Gaelic Park, the highest-profile manager in the GAA and on Monday week, he takes up his new role as a performance consultant with Glasgow Celtic. Life is positively fluid, to use one of his own favourite words.
After all of the furore and speculation about the Celtic offer, this week has been all about Donegal.
As well as walking the line in the weekend’s exhibition match, McGuinness has been making a triumphant call on the exiled Donegal community of Philadelphia, in the company of the only name with similar stature to his own, Sam Maguire, and absorbed the rising emotions as the county rejoices in a second All-Ireland football title and the first for 20 years.
Last week’s disclosure that the county’s manager would not be forsaking them for Glasgow on a full-time basis did much to settle nerves in Donegal but there remained an apprehension that McGuinness could find himself ultimately being offered an enhanced role with Celtic. He doesn’t quite dismiss the prospect but places it in context.
“Nobody can predict what is going to happen. Even if I didn’t get the Celtic job, would I still be in the Donegal job in two years’ time, or four years’ time, or six years’ time? Nobody knows the future. Everything is fluid, and everything changes all the time. That same apprehension would be there if I was working in a bank or working anywhere else.”
By way of reassurance though, he says that he has no plans to take out a soccer coaching licence and no ambition to be a manager in that game.
“No, no. I’m very happy with the job I’m in. The job I’m in is the job that I’ve done in the past. The job that I’ve done in the past is working with people and working with people in Ireland on an individual level.
“I’ve worked with people on an individual level on a fairly deep level for a couple of years in terms of development and working all the different key areas for them to move them forward and then obviously in a collective situation with Donegal and I’ve really enjoyed that work.”
Although he will have to be away for a number of days each week, McGuinness remains adamant that his new role will not materially impinge on his ability to focus on Donegal’s campaign to retain the All-Ireland.
“Rory Gallagher (Donegal assistant manager) is running a shop and he has got 40 staff. Is that disrupting Rory’s focus? He is an unbelievably busy man. Conor Counihan (Cork manager) has a big job too. Does that take away from his focus?
“You’re not working with your county team all of the time. You have a job half the time, and you have your county team half the time. I am lucky. There is no crossover in my job. It is all sport. When I am thinking about a Celtic player in terms of development that is linked to developing my own players. That is why I got the job. I have been in the process of developing players and now I am going in to do a similar job.
“I will be living in Glasgow a few nights a week as well. That means I’m away from my own home and my own children, which actually frees up time! Once you get in the door in the evening and have my dinner, I will be able to sit back and do whatever work I want to do.
“There is a lot of time there that I mightn’t have had previously so there is no impact. It is a great, great opportunity for myself and a great opportunity for Donegal because everything that is there is available to me.”
He reckons that the team, which won the All-Ireland, has still realised just 65 per cent of its potential.
“There’s an awful lot of our players that I still feel have a lot more to offer, a couple of them in particular that have maybe had injuries in the last few years but are quality players . . . the championship probably ran out too soon for them.
“I feel in the team’s development – and that’s why I went for the job for four years – we did very well in certain games and probably Cork was our best performance and we dropped off then. They’re young and learning and we’re not as fluid and as consistent maybe.”
Reminded that Donegal have won two Ulster titles as well as the All-Ireland and so, any talk of improving by another 50 per cent is bound to alarm 31 other counties, McGuinness is philosophical.
“That’s provided you can find it. That’s provided you can find it. Do you know a team that’s operating at 100 per cent? There’s 35 per cent out there, can we get 20 per cent of that in them other areas we’re looking at? Can you retain the good work you done defensively and can you retain the good work you done offensively?
“There’s no guarantee that that 65 per cent that’s there is going to be there and that’s why the whole thing is moving all the time and you just have to work unbelievably hard to try and push the thing forward all the time.”
GPA TARGET FARRELL AIMS TO DOUBLE FUNDING
The Gaelic Players Association is hoping to more than double its funding for training and welfare programmes over the next three years. This was revealed in a media briefing by GPA chief Dessie Farrell in New York yesterday.
The GPA receives €1.6 million from the GAA annually for its various projects.
Speaking before last night’s GPA Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards dinner, Farrell said the GPA would love to see the GAA continue to stage matches in the city.
“In terms of helping our cause over here, that would be phenomenal . . . It creates more awareness, increases the profile.
“ We’ve a couple of ideas around that and I know the GAA are very keen to explore this avenue because the GAA over here plays a very important role as an outlet of for first-generation Irish.
“If you consider that the AFL broadcasts their games here during the season and on a weekly basis have around seven million viewers but we’re not near that and yet the number of Aussies in this country doesn’t compare to the Irish-American community.
“We firmly believe there’s a huge opportunity there.”